Honey bee ecology – Identifying early-warning indicators of colony collapse

Funded PhD student position: « Honey bee ecology – Identifying early-warning indicators of colony collapse »

Lab & supervision:

PhD supervisor: Fabrice Requier (http://www.egce.cnrs-gif.fr/?p=10937)

Co-supervisor: François Rebaudo (http://www.egce.cnrs-gif.fr/?p=798)

Lab: UMR Évolution Génome Comportement Écologie (EGCE), Université Paris-Saclay, CNRS, IRD ; Bat. 13, campus CNRS, 1 Avenue de la Terrasse ; 91190 Gif-sur-Yvette, France

Context: Over the past 20 years, the substantial and global decline of bees has been alarming as they provide critical pollination services (Goulson et al. 2015). In particular, the mortality of honey bee colonies (Apis mellifera) has attracted a lot of attention due to its important role for human well-being by producing honey, sustaining populations of wild plants and supporting production of major crops (Potts et al. 2016). Unfortunately, abnormal high mortality rates of honey bee colonies have been revealed in several regions of the world, including Europe where it can reach up to 25–50% every winter (Gray et al. 2019) leading to strong impacts on beekeeper economy and sustainability, and consequences for associated services. Routine monitoring of colonies is now a common practice of beekeepers to check for potential disorders, changes in productivity or to follow their performance in breeding apiaries. Such techniques are also used in research as monitoring to predict and anticipate disorders’ occurrence (Requier et al. 2017). Nevertheless, routine monitoring is only possible from spring to autumn since opening the hives when temperatures are cold put at risk the colony survival by failure in thermoregulation. Beehives are therefore considered as black boxes by beekeepers during winter, although the colony mortality mainly occurs during this critical period (Gray et al. 2019).

Objectives: This PhD project aims to develop and use information and telecommunication technologies (ICT, e.g. Barlow & O’Neill 2020) as automatic monitoring of honey bee colony dynamics in order to (1) understand mechanisms underlying winter mortality risk and to (2) identify early-warning indicators that could help beekeepers limiting colony losses and related economic deficits. The PhD student will carry out field experiments (combining traditional field observations with automated systems using low-cost sensors developed within the project to track bee colony dynamics in continue and in real time) in various sites distributed along a gradient in landscape complexity (agriculture, urban and semi-natural). Field data will be associated with mechanistic models (e.g. Henry et al. 2017) to assess the risk of colony mortality and to identify early-warning indicators. Hypotheses of landscape and carry-over effects will be particularly tested (Requier et al. 2017). The final goals are (i) to improve knowledge on honey bee ecology, (ii) to analyse the effect of environmental pressures on bee mortalities, and (iii) to derivate decision-support tools for beekeepers to sustain their professional activities. This PhD project is part of a European Era-Net ICT-AGRI-FOOD project that will cover for operational needs, field trips and materials, as well as participation in conferences. Within the framework of this project, close collaborations are planned with the University of Würzburg – Department of Animal Ecology and Tropical Biology (Germany) and the Hellenic Agricultural Organization « DEMETER » – Department of Apiculture (Greece). The PhD results will be promoted through publications in international peer-reviewed journals and through participation in conferences.

References:

Barlow, S.E., O’Neill, M.A. (2020) Technological advances in field studies of pollinator ecology and the future of e-ecology. Current Opinion in Insect Science 38:15–25. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cois.2020.01.008

Goulson, D., Nicholls, E., Botías, C., Rotheray, E.L. (2015) Bee declines driven by combined Goulson, D., Nicholls, E., Botías, C., Rotheray, E.L. (2015) Bee declines driven by combined stress from parasites, pesticides, and lack of flowers. Science 347:1255957. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1255957

Gray, A., Brodschneider, R., Adjlane, N., Ballis, A., Brusbardis, V., Charrière, J.D. et al. (2019) Loss rates of honey bee colonies during winter 2017/18 in 36 countries participating in the COLOSS survey, including effects of forage sources. Journal of Apicultural Research 58:479–485. https://doi.org/10.1080/00218839.2019.1615661

Henry, M., Becher, M.A., Osborne, J.L., Kennedy, P.J., Aupinel, P., Bretagnolle, V., […] Requier, F. (2017) Predictive systems models can help elucidate bee declines driven by multiple combined stressors. Apidologie 48:328–339. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13592-016-0476-0

Potts, S.G. et al. (2016) Safeguarding pollinators and their values to human well-being. Nature 540:220–229. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature20588

Requier, F., Odoux, J.F., Henry, M., Bretagnolle, V. (2017) The carry‐over effects of pollen shortage decrease the survival of honeybee colonies in farmlands. Journal of Applied Ecology 54:1161–1170. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.12836

Profile and skills requested:

– MSc in Ecology, Agroecology, Zoology or a related field

– Knowledge of evolutionary ecology and behavioral ecology

– Knowledge of pollinator ecology and / or beekeeping will be appreciated

– Strong interest in statistics, modelling and programming; proficiency with the R software (www.r-project.org) and/or the Python programming language (www.python.org)

– Motivation for field experimentation and the use of ICT

– Rigor, autonomy, and interpersonal skills

– English proficiency

– Writing skills

Conditions: A 3-year PhD contract starting in February 2021. Gross monthly remuneration according to public services positions in France of about 1760€. The doctoral student will integrate the UMR EGCE (www.egce.cnrs-gif.fr) and will be registered at the ABIES doctoral school (www.agroparistech.fr/abies).

Application procedures: Send your application in a single pdf file by email to fabrice.requier@egce.cnrs-gif.fr no later than November 31, 2020. Title your email “PhD student position 2021 – Honey bee ecology”. Your application must include (i) a letter stating your motivations for this project, (ii) a CV and (iii) the names (with e-mail addresses) of two referees. The interviews will take place at the beginning of December for a start of the contract in February 2021.